By Ryan Schnurr
For several years, Ryan Schnurr watched media coverage of Lake Erie algae blooms with a growing sense of unease. An Indiana native, he wanted to learn more about role of the Maumee River in the lake's environmental woes: the Maumee is Lake Erie's largest tributary and the center of the largest watershed in the region, spanning more than 6,600 square miles of land. So in the summer of 2016, Schnurr walked and canoed the length of the river from its headwaters in Fort Wayne, Indiana to its mouth in Toledo, Ohio. In The Watershed: A Journey Down the Maumee River is the story of that voyage. As he walks the banks, Schnurr tells us the history of the river, from its formation by glaciers, function in Native American and American history, uses by industry, and role in current economic and environmental issues. Part cultural history, part nature writing, and part narrative, In the Watershed is a lyrical work of non-fiction in the vein of John McPhee and Ian Frazier with a timely and important warning at the core. "What is happening in Lake Erie," Schnurr tells us, "is a disaster by nearly any measure―ecologically, economically, socially, culturally."
Advance praise for In the Watershed:
"Many books are bloated. Schnurr’s is just right: short but not superficial, poignant but animated by a stubborn hope. Bravo to Belt Publishing for drawing attention to the Rust Belt and the Midwest." ―John Wilson, Christianity Today
“I am entranced by this slender, luminous volume. Ryan Schnurr has created a subtle monument to a place that we overlook, yet glows with sacredness under his measured gaze. Delightful.” ―Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway and Into the Beautiful North
“The land surface of Earth is a quilt of watersheds, each one gathering runoff that reveals what humans have been doing in the catchment area. All the poisons we spray or dump on the ground, all the soils we expose to erosion, eventually wind up in creeks and rivers, lakes and oceans. Every watershed needs observers who monitor its health, who care about the quality of wild and human life it supports. The Maumee Valley now has a new and keen-eyed caretaker in Ryan Schnurr, who has written an engaging narrative about a journey downriver from the headwaters to Lake Erie, braiding together his personal observations with history, science, and folklore.” ―Scott Russell Sanders, author of Earth Works: Selected Essays and A Conservationist Manifesto
“Ryan Schnurr is a keeper of the spirit of John McPhee, Edward Abbey, and Annie Dillard — he writes about nature intimately and with a sense of wonder, but he’s forever alert to the ways our environment is wounded and reshaped by our greed and neglect. The Maumee River may be relatively small and unknown, but reading this book it’ll feel as big and important as the Mississippi: In the Watershed stretches from the glaciers of eons past to this year’s algae blooms, from wars with Native Americans to Midwest industrial history. It’s a rich, complex, and fragile place, and Schnurr is a superb guide through it.” ―Mark Athitakis, author of The New Midwest: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction of the Great Lakes, Great Plains, and Rust Belt
Ryan Schnurr is a writer and photographer from northeast Indiana. His work has been published by Midwestern Gothic, Old Northwest Review, and Belt Magazine, and has been selected for two regional anthologies. In the Watershed is his first book.
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